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Plan calls for transforming marina into Aspinwall Riverfront Park welcome center

Tawnya Panizzi
hermarina060916jpg
Jan Pakler | For the Tribune-Review
The Aspinwall Marina building, seen in 2016, was turned into a welcome center for Aspinwall Riverfront Park visitors.

The Aspinwall Marina soon could be converted to a welcome center to greet Aspinwall Riverfront Park visitors and direct them to kayak, fishing and camping spots at the 10-acre recreation site.

Aspinwall Council could vote Wednesday on a conditional use application for the center.

The marina building is in the center of the park off Freeport Road.

“We're excited about the conditional use, as it will enable the park to reach its potential as a community treasure,” said Susan Crookston, who spearheaded the $2.3 million purchase of the park land by private investors and through public grants five years ago.

Her firm, Allegheny Development Partners, now oversees the park that opened last year and boasts a trail system and a sculptural playset.

Plans for the marina area include parking for future amenities as well as handicapped-accessible restrooms, which the park currently lacks.

Borough Manager Melissa Lang said Aspinwall's planning commission earlier recommended approval of the application for the welcome center.

“The conditional use would allow them to do renovations and transform (the marina building) from being a private building,” Lang said.

There is no cost estimate yet for the work. Crookston said operating the park costs about $100,000 each year for utilities, insurance, maintenance and taxes, and private donations have built a $1.4 million endowment for long-term maintenance.

The marina is limited to service for small boats. Currently, there is no activity in the building, on three acres that includes a gravel parking lot that Crookston envisions mostly as green and usable space.

“We hope the park will be a gathering place for people doing camps and classes,” Crookston said, citing plans for indoor and outdoor programs.

The park board's intent for Aspinwall Riverfront Park long has been to offer river access.

Last month, members announced a partnership with Friends of the Riverfront and Venture Outdoors to offer kayaking, starting with a festival from 4 to 8 p.m. June 24 at the park to coincide with the first week of summer.

Kayaks will be available for rent Thursdays through Sundays, and anyone who owns a kayak can access the ramp at the marina for free.

Also starting June 24, dock fishing will be offered with access through 8 p.m. nightly. Park board members agreed to pay $50,000 for fencing, signs and a kick ramp.

Social events are planned this summer at the park, including art classes and theater workshops for children. Stage Right, the theater company based in O'Hara, will offer a junior theater camp June 27 to July 1.

Director Bill Ivins said the camp will include a combination of improvisation games and a short play or scenes from a collection of plays.

“We're excited about the possibilities,” Crookston said. For more information, visit aspinwallriverfrontpark.org.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at [email protected].

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